If you're thinking about launching a side hustle along with your full-time job, you're in good company. Combining a side hustle with your job can boost your income and provide opportunity to develop a new business venture while you still have a steady paycheck. But you need to be smart about your arrangement so that it doesn't lead to trouble at work.
With that in mind, here's a look at how you can safely and effectively manage a side hustle along with full-time employment.
1. Review your employment contract.
Before you get too deep in your side hustle, review the terms of your employment contract. See whether there are any restrictions on the type of work you can do on your free time, like a non-compete clause for projects with similar companies.
This is especially important if you use the same skills for your side hustle that you do at work. For example, if you're a graphic designer for a marketing agency and then offer that service freelance as well, you need to be extra cautious about potential conflicts. On the other hand, if you're a mechanical engineer by day and a graphic designer by night, there's much less of an overlap.
Consider reaching out to your manager for guidance about what's allowed for a side hustle. They can let you know what type of clients you can and can't take. Going back to that graphic designer at the marketing agency, perhaps they can still offer their services as a side business so long as they avoid a specific industry or type of project.
2. Schedule set time for your side hustle.
To stay effective, block out a set amount of time each week when you will work on your side hustle. When I started writing while still employed, I committed to working every Tuesday and Wednesday evening, along with all of Saturday. I treated these writing slots in my calendar as seriously as showing up for my main job.
Without a set commitment, you can find weeks go by where you don't feel like working on your side hustle, and then it never really takes off. You also need to protect yourself from working too much—a real temptation for running a business where there's always something to do. Then you risk burning out for both your job and your side hustle.
3. Continue to deliver at work.
Your side hustle may be your passion, and perhaps you dream of one day going full time. But as long as you still have a job, that needs to be your priority. If you start missing work deadlines or show up exhausted because you're too busy with outside projects, your manager could give you an ultimatum to shut it down or else. And it goes without saying that you should never work on your side hustle while on company time.
To stay effective, block out a set amount of time each week when you will work on your side hustle.
By continuing to deliver at work, you'll show your employer they don't need to worry about your side hustle. They may be more relaxed and more willing to help support that endeavor, perhaps by giving you more flexible scheduling or cross promoting your services.
4. Build your savings.
As you put in the hours for your side work, hopefully you'll see a well-deserved bump in your take-home pay. Since you're getting a new business off the ground, consider saving most of that extra pay to help grow it even more, by paying for a new website, for example. You'll also have more of a cash reserve to support yourself, should you decide to quit your job and focus full-time on the business.
Should you stay at your job?
Staying at your full-time job gives you time and money to experiment with your side hustle as you figure things out. That's why you probably shouldn't leave until you're absolutely ready. Some signs that you should stay at your job include:
- You go through inconsistent stretches of business and aren't confident about always landing new work.
- You need to build your portfolio and skills to land higher rates.
- You are still figuring out your business plan and how it could scale.
- You have limited savings—less than three months of living expenses—according to common estimates.
Or is it time to take your side hustle full time?
If your side hustle turns into a big success, it could even become your full-time job. Signs it might be time to take that leap include:
- You're turning away clients to make room for your 9-to-5.
- You've got a set work routine, including marketing, that you're comfortable running full time.
- You've got a clear marketing and business plan that would scale with more hours.
- You've built up your savings for at least three months of living expenses.
Remember, there's no rush to leave your job, even if your side hustle is booming. As I prepared to write full-time, I gave my employer two months' notice instead of the typical two weeks. That helped me leave on positive terms, because there was plenty of time to finish one last major project for them, while I enjoyed having a few more weeks to build my savings and client base.
Running your side hustle along with a full-time job is a balancing act, but by following these tips, you'll help keep your current employer happy—and maintain a steady income for yourself—while getting ready to launch a successful new business.
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